Overcoming hurdles

Dentists have accomplished one of the greatest hurdles of their careers when they master case presentation skills. This involves more than simply educating patients about their dental condition and discussing the different treatment options.

Good case presentation skills include the ability to be completely committed to understanding the patient’s point of view and clarifying the dentist’s own treatment philosophy. Dentists have a far better chance of overcoming patient resistance once they understand their point of view.

To increase case acceptance, it is important to identify and effectively manage three distinct types of resistance to case presentation:

1. Insufficient patient education

With this type of resistance, patients do not agree with, or do not fully comprehend, the benefits of proposed treatment. For example, a dentist may recommend implants and the patient could react positively: ‘That sounds like a great idea.’

Conversely, the reaction could be negative: ‘Why would I want an implant? I’ve heard that they don’t last.’ In this second instance, it is apparent that the patient is not educated about the efficacy and very high success rate of dental implants.

How to take action: Clearly indicated is the need for additional patient education. The best strategy is to provide the patient with a clear explanation of the procedure, its benefits, and success rate. In addition, the team needs to patiently and thoroughly answer all questions and address any concerns that the patient may have.

2. Fear or anxiety

Sometimes patient fear is obvious, sometimes not. While on the surface the issue appears to be about the cost or time involved, the patient may actually be expressing fear – a purely emotional response to what was presented.

At that point, patient resistance is no longer about content or whether the recommended treatment is a good or bad idea – it is much more about the experience of the treatment process. This type of negative patient response to recommended treatment is quite common.

How to take action: The best strategy for addressing this type of resistance is to reassure every patient that the practice works hard to make treatment as comfortable and safe as possible. If the scheduled procedure time is a concern, have the scheduling coordinator work with the patient to identify a more convenient appointment time.

Lastly, if fees are the source of anxiety, have the financial coordinator present the patient with payment options making this treatment as affordable as possible.

3. Lack of trust

Patients are unable to accept treatment recommendations if they do not like the doctor or they have not built a strong enough relationship with the practice.

A lack of trust is hard to overcome because patients are not expressing an emotion about the treatment itself, but rather about the doctor or team. Logically, patients may be thinking that the recommended treatment is a good idea. Emotionally, however, they are not sure if they want to have it performed in their practice.

How to take action: This is not easy for the dentist and team to resolve because often it is taken on a more emotional level. The only solution is to take your time, get to truly know patients and establish a positive, trusting relationship.

Listen carefully to patients. They will give clues indicating which issue the dentist may be facing. The key is to recognise the specific level of resistance and implement strategies to effectively overcome it. Most case presentations do face some level of resistance and the dentist’s ability to respond properly will have a dramatic impact on case acceptance and practice production.

Patient trust is critical to case acceptance. Dentists will only be effective in this area if patients are given a reason to trust and like them. One way to ensure success here is to cultivate the relationship. Be attentive, listen carefully to patients’ questions and recognise their concerns and point of view – then respond effectively. When patients trust you, the most difficult aspect of case presentation is already handled.

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